A whale touring group from GojiraiwaKanko was presented with a pleasant surprise as they saw two white Orcas swimming together for the first time in many years! These two whales were spotted during a tour on July 24th in the Kunashirskiy Strait.
Among the two, the older orca was seen for the first time a couple of years ago while the second was seen for the first time and was younger as per the guide Mai.
The guides and the tourists were very cheerful after witnessing such a spectacular scene for the first time ever that was never witnessed even by the locals.
Mai a guide of the Gojiraiwa-Kanko Tour company, said that among the pair one was older with dark skin while the other was a youngling that had visible scratches on the back.She was very excited as this was also her first time witnessing two white orcas. ‘It was the best day ever. This is the first time two white orcas have been seen off the coast of Japan,’ she said.’
White whales and orcas are thought to be very rare such that only five of them are known to be alive. Scientists believe that it is mainly due to the decreasing number of whales that the variation of genes is a rare occurrence in the genetic pool. Also having white skin makes them easily visible from a long distance making them less efficient at hunting and it also makes them easier to spot for rivals.
Japan often comes to the headlines for its defiance to the International Whaling Committee but it also has a small but dedicated whale-watchers community. These magnificent creatures are often seen along the coastal areas between the northern islands of Hokkaido and Kunashir. Residence along coastal communities are cashing out on this occasion by organizing Whale watching tours.
People always mistake its white coloring as to it being an Albino Orca but this was not the case here. These Orcas are white due to a genetic disorder that produces little to none a hormone known as melanin which is responsible for the color of skin, hair, etc.
Albino Orcas have red eyes due to the visible blood vessels on the eyes. Also, the reasoning behind why the younger one has such visible deep scaring was mainly due to it healing to a darker shade compared to its other skin.
Although the increase in the number of albino and white orcas may be pleasing to such tours, it may be due to the result of dwindling lack of genetic variation which could be the due to decline of the population of the species.Since the number of total whales is decreasing, the ability to pass on some genetic traits to the offspring also decreases. Hence such cases can ascend some specific traits to offspring that were thought to be non-hereditary previously.
The Orcas are also known as Killer Whales because they are known to kill larger whales in some cases. They are the biggest members of the oceanic dolphin family. The genetic mutations among Orcas were quite rare some decades ago but that might have slightly changed.
Scientists believe that this is also due to the decreasing population and such change in genes will affect its ability to survive in its environment.
However not all genetic variations are that harmful to the being. The Kermode bears that were predominantly black but nowadays are being born white due to their recessive genes. This is quite useful to them as studies proved that being white helps them catch fish such as salmon quite easily as they become harder to spot.
All in all, sights of such rare white Orcas have made the locals more motivated towards improving the tour companies and supports the dwindling poor fishing towns and villages. This could be the right step towards the direction of whale protection and awareness.